Everyone has an awesome side hidden away somewhere. Need help in getting it out? Here are 13 ways you can bring out the best version of yourself!
The BNLYFilm Daily, by BNLYFilm – Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015: updated automatically with a curated selection of articles, blog posts, videos and photos.
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A Sparkle of Genius
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Taming Big Data with Smart Contexts
“There’s a big data revolution” says Harvard Professor Gary King. And I agree. However, as Professor King explains, it’s not only the amount of information that is revolutionizing the digital world but the “what” we can do with it that could really make a change for the better.
For the last few months, we have been mulling over the same question at Paper.li: what can we do with all the data we have? After putting things into perspective, one thing became clear to us: that whatever we do, the data needs to be given back to the users.
Here’s a peek at some of the things we are working on to break through the noise and make good use of all the data we collect.
We have a rich data landscape which has grown exponentially since 2010, when we founded Paper.li to help people cut through the noise of their Twitter timeline.
Our position as forerunners in the content curation world has seen our service grow to a point where we now process over 300 million social posts a day. We surface articles, photos and videos of interest from 144 million websites and blogs, bringing meaningful content to millions of readers everyday. The amount of social data around the content we generate puts us in a great position to do exciting new things.
“We are good at collecting data. Now it’s all about making sense out of it.”
But where does one start to figure out what to do? Hacking right in was our way! We had a lot of fun over the past months doing just that – hacking into our data landscape, looking at it from all kinds of angles and asking ourselves new questions.
We’ve been investigating the connections between people, what they read, what they share and who they share it with. We sifted through millions of articles and the corresponding social signals to uncover how to best track the interests and behaviors of our users, their communities, and how they change over time. Getting these key insights about what our users are doing or interested in at any given point gives us valuable knowledge to customize our future services.
“Context makes the service unique for each user; it makes it personal, efficient and successful.”
It’s all about contextual awareness. The main outcome of our work has been to translate these insights into actionable queries and algorithms on our data platform.
Give data back to our users
Social data is a valuable currency to marketers and online advertisers who can use it to sell products and it is tempting to simply turn this data over to them. However, we know there’s so much more we can do with it.
Our whole team agrees that our data “intelligence” should be reserved for our users and be used to provide additional value to them. We have a mission to continue investing in contextual data analysis to find and develop new real life applications to give all this “smart” content back. Although, we don’t have all the answers just yet, we do have a clear vision and are full of energy for the long road ahead.
We believe it’s now crucial to invite our users to tell us exactly how they would like their data to work for them. We want curious, passionate and energetic people to join us Backstage at Paper.li to meet the team, join the data debate and have their say on how future products could take shape. You can join the Backstage community here.
Taste of the future.
As a very first step, we will soon be unveiling what we think is a neat little app.
The idea behind the app is to make life simpler for our users, allowing them to make use of our data in a way that will bring instant benefit. A Beta version will be available on iPhone and only English at first. We’re releasing it in Beta to give our users an opportunity to have a say in how the next versions will take shape.
To wrap up, I can say, these last few months have brought us great insights into the value of our data at Paper.li and we are really excited about the possibilities ahead. We’re looking forward to hearing what our community thinks about our path towards making data useful and how their needs will dictate our next steps to cut through the noise. With smart data and smart people, the future for content looks really bright.
LibrePlanet is an annual conference for free software enthusiasts. LibrePlanet brings together software developers, policy experts, activists and computer users to learn skills, share accomplishments and face challenges to software freedom. Newcomers are always welcome, and LibrePlanet 2015 will feature programming for all ages and experience levels.
This year, the theme of LibrePlanet is “Free Software Everywhere.” We’re looking for talks that touch on the many places and ways that free software is used around the world, as well as ways to make free software ubiquitous. Think “where” in the broadest sense of the word–it’s not just geography-based talks we’re after. What are some contexts where free software is thriving, and some others where it needs a push? How have you worked to gain a foothold for free software in your company or community? And what about free software on all of the myriad pieces of hardware we use, including laptops, phones, tablets, and even coffee makers? At LibrePlanet 2015, we’re taking software freedom around the world, to outer space, and through all kinds of industries, governments,
Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows.
Our smartphones have become Swiss army knife–like appliances that include a dictionary, calculator, web browser, email, Game Boy, appointment calendar, voice recorder, guitar tuner, weather forecaster, GPS, texter, tweeter, Facebook updater, and flashlight. They’re more powerful and do more things than the most advanced computer at IBM corporate headquarters 30 years ago. And we use them all the time, part of a 21st-century mania for cramming everything we do into every single spare moment of downtime. We text while we’re walking across the street, catch up on email while standing in a queue – and while having lunch with friends, we surreptitiously check to see what our other friends are doing. At the kitchen counter, cosy and secure in our domicile, we write our shopping lists on smartphones while we are listening to that wonderfully informative podcast on urban beekeeping.
But there’s a fly in the ointment. Although we think we’re doing several things at once, multitasking, this is a powerful and diabolical illusion. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and one of the world experts on divided attention, says that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.” So we’re not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler; we’re more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of us but worried it will come crashing down any minute. Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.
Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens. The irony here for those of us who are trying to focus amid competing activities is clear: the very brain region we need to rely on for staying on task is easily distracted. We answer the phone, look up something on the internet, check our email, send an SMS, and each of these things tweaks the novelty- seeking, reward-seeking centres of the brain, causing a burst of endogenous opioids (no wonder it feels so good!), all to the detriment of our staying on task. It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy. Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugar-coated tasks.
In the old days, if the phone rang and we were busy, we either didn’t answer or we turned the ringer off. When all phones were wired to a wall, there was no expectation of being able to reach us at all times – one might have gone out for a walk or been between places – and so if someone couldn’t reach you (or you didn’t feel like being reached), it was considered normal. Now more people have mobile phones than have toilets. This has created an implicit expectation that you should be able to reach someone when it is convenient for you, regardless of whether it is convenient for them. This expectation is so ingrained that people in meetings routinely answer their mobile phones to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk now, I’m in a meeting.” Just a decade or two ago, those same people would have let a landline on their desk go unanswered during a meeting, so different were the expectations for reachability.
Just having the opportunity to multitask is detrimental to cognitive performance. Glenn Wilson, former visiting professor of psychology at Gresham College, London, calls it info-mania. His research found that being in a situation where you are trying to concentrate on a task, and an email is sitting unread in your inbox, can reduce your effective IQ by 10 points. And although people ascribe many benefits to marijuana, including enhanced creativity and reduced pain and stress, it is well documented that its chief ingredient, cannabinol, activates dedicated cannabinol receptors in the brain and interferes profoundly with memory and with our ability to concentrate on several things at once. Wilson showed that the cognitive losses from multitasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from pot‑smoking.
Russ Poldrack, a neuroscientist at Stanford, found that learning information while multitasking causes the new information to go to the wrong part of the brain. If students study and watch TV at the same time, for example, the information from their schoolwork goes into the striatum, a region specialised for storing new procedures and skills, not facts and ideas. Without the distraction of TV, the information goes into the hippocampus, where it is organised and categorised in a variety of ways, making it easier to retrieve. MIT’s Earl Miller adds, “People can’t do [multitasking] very well, and when they say they can, they’re deluding themselves.” And it turns out the brain is very good at this deluding business.
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‘Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task.’ Photograph: Alamy
Then there are the metabolic costs that I wrote about earlier. Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task. And the kind of rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time. We’ve literally depleted the nutrients in our brain. This leads to compromises in both cognitive and physical performance. Among other things, repeated task switching leads to anxiety, which raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, which in turn can lead to aggressive and impulsive behaviour. By contrast, staying on task is controlled by the anterior cingulate and the striatum, and once we engage the central executive mode, staying in that state uses less energy than multitasking and actually reduces the brain’s need for glucose.
To make matters worse, lots of multitasking requires decision-making: Do I answer this text message or ignore it? How do I respond to this? How do I file this email? Do I continue what I’m working on now or take a break? It turns out that decision-making is also very hard on your neural resources and that little decisions appear to take up as much energy as big ones. One of the first things we lose is impulse control. This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important. Why would anyone want to add to their daily weight of information processing by trying to multitask?
In discussing information overload with Fortune 500 leaders, top scientists, writers, students, and small business owners, email comes up again and again as a problem. It’s not a philosophical objection to email itself, it’s the mind-numbing number of emails that come in. When the 10-year-old son of my neuroscience colleague Jeff Mogil (head of the Pain Genetics lab at McGill University) was asked what his father does for a living, he responded, “He answers emails.” Jeff admitted after some thought that it’s not so far from the truth. Workers in government, the arts, and industry report that the sheer volume of email they receive is overwhelming, taking a huge bite out of their day. We feel obliged to answer our emails, but it seems impossible to do so and get anything else done.
Before email, if you wanted to write to someone, you had to invest some effort in it. You’d sit down with pen and paper, or at a typewriter, and carefully compose a message. There wasn’t anything about the medium that lent itself to dashing off quick notes without giving them much thought, partly because of the ritual involved, and the time it took to write a note, find and address an envelope, add postage, and take the letter to a mailbox. Because the very act of writing a note or letter to someone took this many steps, and was spread out over time, we didn’t go to the trouble unless we had something important to say. Because of email’s immediacy, most of us give little thought to typing up any little thing that pops in our heads and hitting the send button. And email doesn’t cost anything.
Sure, there’s the money you paid for your computer and your internet connection, but there is no incremental cost to sending one more email. Compare this with paper letters. Each one incurred the price of the envelope and the postage stamp, and although this doesn’t represent a lot of money, these were in limited supply – if you ran out of them, you’d have to make a special trip to the stationery store and the post office to buy more, so you didn’t use them frivolously. The sheer ease of sending emails has led to a change in manners, a tendency to be less polite about what we ask of others. Many professionals tell a similar story. One said, “A large proportion of emails I receive are from people I barely know asking me to do something for them that is outside what would normally be considered the scope of my work or my relationship with them. Email somehow apparently makes it OK to ask for things they would never ask by phone, in person, or in snail mail.”
There are also important differences between snail mail and email on the receiving end. In the old days, the only mail we got came once a day, which effectively created a cordoned-off section of your day to collect it from the mailbox and sort it. Most importantly, because it took a few days to arrive, there was no expectation that you would act on it immediately. If you were engaged in another activity, you’d simply let the mail sit in the box outside or on your desk until you were ready to deal with it. Now email arrives continuously, and most emails demand some sort of action: Click on this link to see a video of a baby panda, or answer this query from a co-worker, or make plans for lunch with a friend, or delete this email as spam. All this activity gives us a sense that we’re getting things done – and in some cases we are. But we are sacrificing efficiency and deep concentration when we interrupt our priority activities with email.
Until recently, each of the many different modes of communication we used signalled its relevance, importance, and intent. If a loved one communicated with you via a poem or a song, even before the message was apparent, you had a reason to assume something about the nature of the content and its emotional value. If that same loved one communicated instead via a summons, delivered by an officer of the court, you would have expected a different message before even reading the document. Similarly, phone calls were typically used to transact different business from that of telegrams or business letters. The medium was a clue to the message. All of that has changed with email, and this is one of its overlooked disadvantages – because it is used for everything. In the old days, you might sort all of your postal mail into two piles, roughly corresponding to personal letters and bills. If you were a corporate manager with a busy schedule, you might similarly sort your telephone messages for callbacks. But emails are used for all of life’s messages. We compulsively check our email in part because we don’t know whether the next message will be for leisure/amusement, an overdue bill, a “to do”, a query… something you can do now, later, something life-changing, something irrelevant.
This uncertainty wreaks havoc with our rapid perceptual categorisation system, causes stress, and leads to decision overload. Every email requires a decision! Do I respond to it? If so, now or later? How important is it? What will be the social, economic, or job-related consequences if I don’t answer, or if I don’t answer right now?
‘Because it is limited in characters, texting discourages thoughtful discussion or any level of detail, and its addictive problems are compounded by its hyper-immediacy.’
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‘Because it is limited in characters, texting discourages thoughtful discussion or any level of detail, and its addictive problems are compounded by its hyper-immediacy.’ Photograph: Alamy
Now of course email is approaching obsolescence as a communicative medium. Most people under the age of 30 think of email as an outdated mode of communication used only by “old people”. In its place they text, and some still post to Facebook. They attach documents, photos, videos, and links to their text messages and Facebook posts the way people over 30 do with email. Many people under 20 now see Facebook as a medium for the older generation.
For them, texting has become the primary mode of communication. It offers privacy that you don’t get with phone calls, and immediacy you don’t get with email. Crisis hotlines have begun accepting calls from at-risk youth via texting and it allows them two big advantages: they can deal with more than one person at a time, and they can pass the conversation on to an expert, if needed, without interrupting the conversation.
But texting suffers from most of the problems of email and then some. Because it is limited in characters, it discourages thoughtful discussion or any level of detail. And the addictive problems are compounded by texting’s hyperimmediacy. Emails take some time to work their way through the internet and they require that you take the step of explicitly opening them. Text messages magically appear on the screen of your phone and demand immediate attention from you. Add to that the social expectation that an unanswered text feels insulting to the sender, and you’ve got a recipe for addiction: you receive a text, and that activates your novelty centres. You respond and feel rewarded for having completed a task (even though that task was entirely unknown to you 15 seconds earlier). Each of those delivers a shot of dopamine as your limbic system cries out “More! More! Give me more!”
In a famous experiment, my McGill colleagues Peter Milner and James Olds, both neuroscientists, placed a small electrode in the brains of rats, in a small structure of the limbic system called the nucleus accumbens. This structure regulates dopamine production and is the region that “lights up” when gamblers win a bet, drug addicts take cocaine, or people have orgasms – Olds and Milner called it the pleasure centre. A lever in the cage allowed the rats to send a small electrical signal directly to their nucleus accumbens. Do you think they liked it? Boy how they did! They liked it so much that they did nothing else. They forgot all about eating and sleeping. Long after they were hungry, they ignored tasty food if they had a chance to press that little chrome bar; they even ignored the opportunity for sex. The rats just pressed the lever over and over again, until they died of starvation and exhaustion. Does that remind you of anything? A 30-year-old man died in Guangzhou (China) after playing video games continuously for three days. Another man died in Daegu (Korea) after playing video games almost continuously for 50 hours, stopped only by his going into cardiac arrest.
Each time we dispatch an email in one way or another, we feel a sense of accomplishment, and our brain gets a dollop of reward hormones telling us we accomplished something. Each time we check a Twitter feed or Facebook update, we encounter something novel and feel more connected socially (in a kind of weird, impersonal cyber way) and get another dollop of reward hormones. But remember, it is the dumb, novelty-seeking portion of the brain driving the limbic system that induces this feeling of pleasure, not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centres in the prefrontal cortex. Make no mistake: email-, Facebook- and Twitter-checking constitute a neural addiction.
© Daniel J. Levitin. Extracted from The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, published by Viking (£20). Click here to buy it for £16.
By Steven Bancarz| Does consciousness create the material world? Before we answer this question, it’s important to first go into what the material world is actually composed of at a fundamental level. “Reality” is not simply made of tiny physical pieces, like a bunch of marbles
We interact with a world of physical objects, but this is only due to the way our brains translate sensory data. At the smallest and most fundamental scales of nature, the idea of “physical reality” is non-existent. From the Nobel Prize winning father of quantum mechanics Neils Bohr, “Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real. In quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you yet, you don’t understand it well enough.” When you touch your hands together, it is really just empty space touching more empty space, with the slightest ingredient of energetic spin of these minuscule particles. The constituents of matter have absolutely no physical structure.
This is important to understand, because if we think of the world of quantum physics as being a world of bowling balls and and marbles, then the idea of consciousness creating reality doesn’t really make sense. But understanding that reality is a cosmic concoction of non-localized energy and empty space, it becomes clear that our thoughts and the signals they register in the brain also have these same properties at their smallest level. Our thoughts are also an activity of the universe, and all activities take place within the same quantum realm prior to manifesting in physical reality.
Consciousness is one of the hard problems in science. There is no way to explain how something as material as chemical and physical processes can give rise to something as immaterial as experience. There is no reason why subjective experience exists at all, or how sentience evolved. Nature would operate just as well without subjectivity, and when we actually try to scientifically investigate the origin and physics of consciousness, we get hints that maybe consciousness and reality are not as separate as material science would have us think.
Here are some principles in quantum mechanics, taken from the book “The Self-Aware Universe” written by former professor of theoretical physics for 30 years at the University of Oregon, Dr. Amit Gozwami:
A quantum object (such as an electron) can be at more than one place at the same time. It can be measured as a wave smeared out in space, and can be located at several different points across this wave. This is called the wave property.
A quantum object ceases to exist here and simultaneously appears in existence over there without have EVER traveled the intervening space. This is known as the quantum jump. It essentially teleports.
A manifestation of one quantum object, cause by our observations, simultaneously influences its correlated twin object, no matter how far apart they are. Fire an electron and a proton off of an atom. Whatever happens to the electron, the exact same or exact opposite will happen to the proton. This is called quantum-action-at-a-distance. Einstein called this “spooky” action at a distance.
4) The Observer Effect
A quantum object cannot be said to manifest in ordinary space-time reality until we observe it as a particle. The quantum object exists indefinitely as a non-local wave until it is being observed directly. Consciousness literally collapses the wave-function of a particle.
This last point is interesting, because it implies that without a conscious observer present to collapse this wave, it would remain physically un-manifested in a state of potentiality . Observation not only disturbs what has to be measured, it produces the effect. This was verified in what is known as the double-slit experiment, where the presence of a conscious observer changed the behaviour of an electron from a wave state to a particle state. This is known as the “observer effect” and completely shakes what we assume to be true about the physical world. Here is an easy to understand cartoon rendition of the experiment:
The findings of this experiment were published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature, in which the scientists summarized saying “The introduction of a which- path (welcher Weg) detector for determining the actual path taken by the particle inevitably involved coupling the particle to a measuring environment, which in turn results in dephasing (suppression of interference).” That’s quite a mouthful, but it basically means that the measurement system used to detect the activity of the particle effected the behaviour of that particle.
As scientist Dr. Dean Radin said in a paper replicating the double-slit experiment, “We compel the electron to assume a definite position. We ourselves produce the results of the measurement.” Now, a common response to this is “It’s not us who is measuring the electron, it’s the machine that is doing the observation”. A machine is simply an extension of our consciousness. This is like saying “It’s not me who is observing the boat way across the lake, it is the binoculars”. The machine does not itself observe anything any more than a computer that interprets sound waves can “listen” to a song.
This has led some scientists to speculate that without consciousness, the universe would exist indeterminately as a sea of quantum potentiality. In other words, physical reality cannot first exist without subjectivity. Without consciousness, there is no physical matter. This is known as the Participatory Anthropic Principle, and was first proposed by physicist Dr. John Wheeler. Essentially, any possible universe that we can imagine that does not have conscious observers in it can be ruled out immediately. Consciousness is therefore the ground of being and must have existed prior to the physical universe. Consciousness literally creates the physical world.
These findings provide huge implications regarding how we can understand our interconnectedness with the external world. “We create our reality” is used to refer to the fact that our thoughts create the perspective we have of the world, but we now have a more concrete and literal understanding of this phrase. We actually give rise to the physical universe with our subjectivity.
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” – Max Planck, Nobel Prize winning originator of quantum theory, as quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931).
Quantum physics and consciousness:
About the author: My name is Steve Bancarz, and I am the Creator of Spirit Science and Metaphysics. Thanks for taking the time to read this article! If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter, you can do so here: http://creatorcourse.com/ssmcommunity/
We look at the current rise in terrorism and don’t connect it with past events. By ignoring what happened in the past we risk not stopping it in the future.
A Lesson from Terrorism: Violence and The Grayness of LifeStan GoldbergJanuary 16, 2015Grieving and Recovery, Thoughts of the DayTHOUGHT OF THE DAY. Each day’s new violence makes people want to retreat into a 1950’s bomb shelter, or buy a home in a gated and guarded community, or hide in a shack in a remote part of the woods.Of course, we need to buy a gun—preferably an AK47 or Bazooka—and ready ourselves to blast any intruder who dares step onto our property, no less cross the threshold of our castle. And as a backup strategy, we’ll do what we have always been doing.The Stupidity of Repeating Our HistoryThat formula—repeating our history—is something that endlessly brings about cycles of violence, suppression, and revenge. It’s a way of functioning that led to the 30 year war between the Hatfields and McCoys.Why is it that our approach to combating violence hasn’t gone beyond the strategy of two illiterate families living in the hills of West Virginia and Kentucky more than 150 years ago? The answer may be that it’s ingrained in our daily living patterns.Terrorism: A Gray WorldWe believe we live in a black and white world where “good” stands against “evil,” “right” can always be distinguished from “wrong” as in John Wayne movies, and where what I believe makes more sense than what you believe.It’s a prescription for an endless cycle of conflict. Someone experiences an injustice and then acts in a brutal way. Their actions are met with force and the cycle continues until one group is incapacitated or killed—as in World War I, when men were sacrificed until few were left to die.A Lesson for Our Daily Lives: The Difference Between Understanding and AcceptanceI see the neglect of history in my counseling where a significant event is treated as if it was immaculately conceived in a vacuum. Adult children who only want the best for an aging parent don’t understand their parent’s anger when treated as a child. Grade school teachers who haven’t changed the content of their course in twenty years, react to the boredom of students by requiring detention. Husbands who emotionally haven’t been available to their wives for years can’t forgive their wife’s infidelity.Understanding the history of an event doesn’t make it acceptable, but it does provide guidelines for how to stop the cycle. For example, while forcefully going after the terrorists in Europe, discussions are beginning that examine not only what generated the atrocities, but also what can be done to stop the cycle. While vowing to imprison or kill the current terrorists, some European leaders are also proposing ways of integrating Moslem communities while respecting their uniqueness.We have been lucky so far in the United States. But I have no doubt our time of anguish will come. And then we’ll be faced with the same choices as the Europeans: Mindlessly scream vengeance as the neo-Nazi party in Germany and our own Ted Cruz does, or protect our citizens as responsible leaders are doing in Europe while searching for ways of interrupting the cycle.
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